Several declassified documents reveal that Mexican authorities are unable to estimate the number of victims whose bodies have disappeared, their remains destroyed by criminal organizations in at least 15 sites across the country.
According to official documents declassified by Mexico‘s federal police and Attorney General’s Office (PGR), and seen by Milenio, both agencies warn that it is impossible to know how many missing people have had their bodies destroyed in what the newspaper calls “processing centers.” Fifteen such sites — where the bodies are either chemically or mechanically broken down beyond recognition — have been identified by the government, Milenio reports.
Two sites were found in Ciudad Juarez and another three in Mexico’s Federal District. The other sites were found in the states of Michoacan, Hidalgo, Morelos, Durango, Guerrero, Coahuila, Guanajuato, or in unidentified locations, according to the declassified papers.
According to government statistics the number of intentionally destroyed bodies is on the rise, with 37 cases registered in 2008, compared to 255 in 2012. The number of clandestine graves found in recent years has seen a similar increase from six in 2007 to 84 last year, according to PGR records.
Another recent Milenio investigation, published October 28, found that during President Felipe Calderon’s six-year term, over 24,000 bodies have been pulled from mass graves. 2011 was the worst such year, registering 4,927 victims.
InSight Crime Analysis
The admission that neither the PGR nor the police can accurately say how many bodies have been destroyed is unsurprising in light of the conflicting numbers from various government institutions on the number of “disappeared” victims. As noted by Animal Politico, the PGR lists nearly double the number of missing (4,800 cases) than the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP). Mexico’s foremost human rights body has released even higher figures.
The conflicting statistics instill little confidence that the families of the disappeared have a serious chance of ever finding out what happened to their missing relatives. The number of sites across Mexico used to destroy the remains of murder victims also suggests that many cases will remain unsolved. One of the more recent discoveries of a so-called “processing center” came in August when authorities found a site in Michoacan state where victims were tortured and burned in an oven before being buried among six clandestine graves.
The rising number of disappearances and mass graves is in parallel to the upward trend in homicides. Recent statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) showed that 2011 was the most violent year under Calderon.